Vietnam: Political-Military Dialogue Reflects Growing U.S. Relationship

June 30, 2010
Vietnamese Walk Past Old Cluster Bomb Casings in Khe Sanh City

About the Author: Andrew J. Shapiro serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

This year marks the 15th anniversary since the United States and Vietnam formally normalized diplomatic relations. Since then, we have worked together to build increasingly dynamic and forward-looking ties based on a shared commitment to a secure and prosperous Asia-Pacific region.

I recently returned from Hanoi, where I led the U.S. diplomatic delegation to the third annual U.S.-Vietnam Political, Security, and Defense Dialogue. It was my first visit to Vietnam, and it was a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress we've made in our political-military relationship over the past 15 years, as well as to identify key areas for continued cooperation in the years ahead.

Under the Political, Security, and Defense Dialogue, the Department of State (DoS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) exchange views on key issues in a single forum with various Vietnamese ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Public Security. During the dialogue, my Vietnamese counterpart, Standing Vice Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, and I focused on ways to expand cooperation on a host of shared security challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; Vietnamese engagement in international peacekeeping through our Global Peace Operations Initiative; nonproliferation issues; unexploded ordnance removal; and counternarcotics and transnational crime. Our delegation included representatives from DoD and the U.S. Pacific Command, who also engaged their Vietnamese counterparts on maritime security; building Vietnamese search and rescue capabilities; U.S. Navy ship visits; and other issues of mutual interest.

But even as we looked ahead, our discussions also included reminders of our shared past, such as furthering cooperation in accounting for 1,313 American service members from the Vietnam War still Missing in Action. We also addressed U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation on issues related to Agent Orange and dioxin contamination. Since 2001, the United States has been engaged in joint cooperation with Vietnam on this issue and has provided more than $9 million in technical assistance since 2007 to address it. In 2011, we hope to support containment and remediation work at Danang airport and look forward to working with our Vietnamese colleagues on making further progress.

Perhaps the most memorable and striking part of the visit for me was a tour of a Hanoi museum dedicated to the removal of unexploded ordnance: bombs, mortars, landmines, and abandoned munitions left over from the Vietnam War and other conflicts. The United States has a long history of supporting Vietnam's efforts to safely dispose of unexploded ordnance, and this is another area where we continue to accomplish a great deal together.

Since 1989, the United States has provided $37 million for removal of unexploded ordnance in Vietnam. In addition, we have funded a comprehensive Landmine Impact Survey, which provides Vietnam and the donor community with vital information regarding the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance upon communities, and will help them plan future activities. We have also provided $43 million in humanitarian aid for Vietnamese people with disabilities, including those who have been injured by unexploded ordnance.

As in Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, and many other countries dealing with the challenges posed by unexploded ordnance, these hidden killers remain a leading obstacle to economic development long after the fighting has ended. The United States is proud to be the world's single largest financial supporter of efforts to help post-conflict countries address unexploded ordnance. Under the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action program -- a partnership among the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the United States has provided more than $1.5 billion toward landmine clearance and conventional weapons destruction in 47 countries. Initiatives include:

• Mine clearance projects by 63 partner organizations, such as the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Clear Path International, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and Peace Trees Vietnam
• Mine-risk education to help area residents avoid injury by identifying potential hazards
• Research and development into new demining technologies
• Training local demining technicians in affected countries
• Supporting rehabilitation programs serving those injured by landmines and unexploded munitions

Our continuing efforts to help Vietnam address these risks figured prominently in the agenda of U.S.-Vietnam Political, Security, and Defense Dialogue, as well as my separate meetings with Vietnamese organizations dedicated to unexploded ordnance clearance. The United States is providing $3.5 million this year for clearance efforts in Vietnam, and this will be an area for continued close cooperation in the years ahead.

I am pleased that together the United States and Vietnam are making progress in many areas, and that the U.S.-Vietnam political-military relationship continues to grow stronger. I am optimistic that the relationship between our two nations will continue to deepen. While there is still much room for growth in our relationship with Vietnam, I am confident that the best is yet to come.



New York, USA
July 1, 2010

Frank in New York writes:

As the US demands accountability from BP, I can't help but find it hypocritical that the US doesn't hold itself to the same standards regarding Agent Orange.

Establishing links between AO and physical deformation has been stretched out too long, and it's just coming down to buying time. At home decades ago, the US has secretly paid American soldiers exposed to AO.

The ones hurting aren't former enemies. The ones hurting are children and unborn generations as the dioxin still remains in the soil and water. Accountability shouldn't just be expected from foreign countries.

Additionally, the US should also step up its pressure on the Vietnamese government on human rights issues. It may seem odd that I side with Vietnam on one issue, and side with the US on another, but I'm really on the side of human rights. Both countries are guilty of violating this principle.

Pamela G.
West Virginia, USA
July 2, 2010

Pamela G. in West Virginia writes:

As a child of the Viet Nam War it is so encouraging that we are trying so hard to have normal relationship with Viet Nam . Helping get rid of unexploded ordinances is wonderful. We still have so many families still suffering to know the fate of their children,we need to push for answers for these families.


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